As a Canadian, I'm ashamed of Trudeau's crackdown on the protesters

A democratic leader is elected to represent all of the people, all of the time – not just those who agree with them

Police make an arrest as they work to bring a protest in opposition to mandatory Covid-19 vaccine mandates to an end in Ottawa on Friday. AP Photo
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I am Canadian, born and raised. And in the course of one week, I went from feeling great pride for my home country to being filled with shame and horror for the unprecedented violation of civil rights perpetrated by Justin Trudeau, our Prime Minister.

For the past few weeks, I have followed with interest the Freedom Convoy – a parade of lorry drivers rolling into the capital city en masse to demonstrate for their one wish: an end to vaccine mandates.

I know people who viewed the convoy as a nuisance and others who saw it as an act of bravery. I know people who agreed with the movement and those who didn't. But I felt a sense of satisfaction that I come from a country that allows a massively diverse group of people who feel passionately about a cause to join together and express their democratic right to peacefully congregate and let their voices be heard. It is a privilege afforded to Canadians, but one rarely practised in such numbers.

Fast forward 19 days and the group that Mr Trudeau brushed off as a "small fringe minority" with "unacceptable views" is the reason he uses to invoke the Emergencies Act – a measure giving the prime minister sweeping powers to strengthen law enforcement, seize property, limit access to public spaces, freeze bank accounts and generally do almost anything he wants in the name of security.

Last week, the videos from the protest featured people dancing, singing the national anthem, cleaning the streets of snow, sharing food donations with the homeless and hugging non-stop. Police statistics showed street crime was down.

This weekend, those streets were filled with violence. People are being beaten, truck windows being smashed, personal property being taken, tear gas in the air, and people being trampled by horses (including an elderly woman on a mobility scooter). But all of this aggression is not coming from the protesters, but from the giant security force amassed to quell the demonstration.

Before resorting to such a tyrannical approach, you might assume Mr Trudeau tried everything in his bag of tricks to calm and resolve a situation he deemed an extreme threat. Did he meet with the protesters to hear their concerns? No. Did he engage in a constructive dialogue? No. Did he ever suggest some sort of solution or compromise? No.

What is especially interesting is that there were offshoots of the Freedom Convoy that were far more disruptive, obstructing key trading bridges with the US, and causing economic havoc. But by the time Mr Trudeau pulled out the Emergencies Act, those blockades had already dispelled thanks to laws already on the books.

I never imagined I would be looking shamefully on my home country as an oppressive regime

A democratic leader is elected to represent all the people, all the time – not just those that agree with them. Mr Trudeau knows this and is quick to admonish others.

Even as he was invoking the Emergencies Act, his government had the gumption to release this tweet: "Canada condemns #Cuba's harsh sentencing following the July 2021 protests. Canada strongly advocates for freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly free from intimidation. We stand with the people of Cuba in their aspiration for #democracy".

In December, Mr Trudeau also weighed in on the farmer protests in India: "Let me remind you, Canada will always be there to defend the rights of peaceful protesters. We believe in the process of dialogue. We've reached out through multiple means to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns."

Hello? Kettle? Black?

The very first thing he did when he finally acknowledged thousands of people on his doorstep was invoke the never-before-used Emergencies Act.

The Act was passed in 1988 to replace the War Measures Act, which had only ever been used three times: during the First World War, the Second World War and in 1970 by Mr Trudeau's father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who was prime minister at the time. He used it to stamp out a terrorist organisation that had conducted hundreds of bombings and kidnapped and murdered the deputy premier of the province of Quebec.

People have been trotting out the "like father, like son comparison" as a rationale for Mr Trudeau's drastic decision. But the difference here is that the movement's organisers who were arrested this weekend were charged with mischief – that's a far cry from murder. But according to the Trudeau government, mischief is enough to have your bank accounts frozen. This is scary stuff.

While Mr Trudeau faces two legal challenges contending that he has not met the legal standard to use the Emergencies Act, he must also face up to the court of public opinion.

Many local and international media and politicians have called him out for his approach and the dangerous precedent he has set by robbing his citizens of the fundamental democratic right to dissent. The "slippery slope" concern has been repeatedly highlighted and seems to be clear to everyone except the Prime Minister.

Mr Trudeau's stubbornness looks increasingly silly as it is on display while country after country announces they are shedding mandates and restrictions related to Covid-19 – the very root of the "threatening" discontent he is looking to stamp out.

But the thing that I find most astounding is that when I came to the UAE 14 years ago, I never imagined that my new home would make so much progress with tolerance, rights, laws and freedoms that I would be looking shamefully on my home country as an oppressive regime.

Published: February 20, 2022, 2:29 PM
Updated: February 22, 2022, 9:15 PM